The Speed of Dark - Elizabeth Moon

It's hard to know what to say about this novel. From one perspective I really enjoyed it; it was different, and I really liked the main character Lou. The novels I enjoy most are the ones where the character’s (good or bad) go through some sort of a transition or process in a novel. I don’t even care if there’s much of a plot to be honest. Instead, I like to see a protagonist change or grow because of the set of circumstances depicted. On one hand this was tackled well, but on the other, it wasn’t done well enough. Let me explain…


This novel is set in the near future, at a time when it's possible to remove genetic defects at birth. Autism is cited as one of these genetic defects and can supposedly be rectified at birth. Lou Arendale is a high-functioning autistic who was part of the ‘lost generation’ that came at a time when this treatment wasn’t available. While certain advancements have been made to help an autistic such as Lou adapt to life (for example a special gym at his work-place where he can go when he feels he needs time-out) he will still always remain slightly different and have difficulties.


Lou works alongside a group of autistics from this lost generation, and they're offered the chance to try an experimental treatment that'll supposedly reverse the effects of autism. The novel then follows Lou as he decides whether he should opt for this treatment which may strip him of his identity and make him someone different entirely.


I found it fascinating entering the mind of someone like Lou as he tried to figure out what he should do, but I got a bit frustrated by the sub-plot which was concerned with Lou’s friends from his fencing group. I understand why this sub-plot was explored; it was used to highlight how Lou had difficulty understanding people’s motivations and how the treatment (if it worked) would aid his understanding of similar future situations. It didn’t need to be considered for quite so much of the novel though.


After meandering for quite some time, Lou then makes his decision about whether to have the treatment. The novel then suddenly hurries through this, his recovery, and ends by telling us whether it’s worked or not. It seemed to end just when it was getting interesting! I would have loved a further 50-100 pages so that I could find out how Lou adapted to his new life. Or instead, some could have been cut from earlier on, because although there was significant character development, I think the same result could have been achieved with a bit less. So then, that part of depicting a character’s growth was well done, but by exploring Lou post-treatment, there would have been the possibility for more growth.


Lou was a great character and as I say, I loved entering his mind, but would have loved this novel a lot more if it hadn’t ended so suddenly.